Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is characterized by a marked genetic heterogeneity, which complicates the development of novel therapeutics. The delineation of pathways essential within an individual patient's mutational background might overcome this limitation and facilitate personalized treatment. We report the results of a large-scale lentiviral loss-of-function RNA interference (RNAi) screen in primary leukemic cells. Stringent validation identified 6 genes (BNIPL1, ROCK1, RPS13, STK3, SNX27, WDHD1) whose knockdown impaired growth and viability of the cells. Dependence on these genes was not caused by mutation or overexpression, and although some of the candidates seemed to be rather patient specific, others were essential in cells isolated from other AML patients. In addition to the phenotype observed after ROCK1 knockdown, treatment with the approved ROCK inhibitor fasudil resulted in increased apoptosis and decreased viability of primary AML cells. In contrast to observations in some other malignancies, ROCK1 inhibition did not foster growth of immature malignant progenitors but was toxic to this cell fraction in feeder coculture and xenotransplant experiments, indicating a distinct effect of ROCK1 inhibition on leukemic progenitors. We conclude that large-scale RNAi screens in primary patient-derived cells are feasible and can complement other methods for personalized cancer therapies, such as expression and mutation profiling.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published